Lee Drywall Inc.
In October 1991, husband and wife Mitchell and Traci Lee established a small, independent drywall company in their hometown of Fort Myers, Fla. Mitchell had worked in the construction industry for more than 10 years before founding the business and Traci brought on her accounting and administrative skills. Together, the couple’s combined experience launched local, yet ever-growing, Lee Drywall Inc. (LDI).
Today, 23 years later, LDI has grown significantly. The company has entered its second generation of family operation, with Mitchell and Traci’s son, Justin, joining the business. Mitchell and Justin work side by side as president and vice president, respectively. The family oversees a team of more than 100 full-time employees performing a wide range of interior and exterior applications. The crew has established a strong market in Southwest Florida, although LDI has performed projects all over the state.
Diverse commercial work
Over the years, LDI has tackled a broad range of commercial projects, large and small. “We do high exposure projects, but we will work top to bottom,” Justin explains. “We have done projects installing metal framing, drywall, insulation, stucco, acoustical ceilings and exterior insulation finish systems for buildings as large as 600,000 feet. On the other end of the spectrum, our customers call us in to patch a few holes.”
The team performs approximately 70 percent of its work in-house, most frequently subcontracting scaffolding and acoustical ceilings. Keeping most of the labor under the LDI name helps the business control quality and costs, although many trades not under the company umbrella can be performed more efficiently by a subcontractor. LDI has a strong network of subcontractors, although the crew is always looking for new talent to help out with a growing share of regional work.
“We recently negotiated a theater project,” Justin notes. “We have done most of the theaters in the area around here. This one is the Promenade at Coconut Creek: Silverspot Theater in Coconut Creek, Fla. We are performing the interior metal framing, engineered exterior metal framing, insulation, acoustical ceilings, stucco and the largest foam bands we have ever installed on a building. We are also working with Belfour Beatty on the Lemon Bay High School. That project is currently at phase five and we have recently negotiated phase six. We have been there since phase three and we may continue with later stages of construction.”
While much of the construction market across the United States has struggled, Justin explains that his team is doing well. “Some of it is our capabilities, some of it is just growth returning to the area,” he explains. “But we have seen an uptick. Our reputation is helping us; we are a bondable company with a good track record of our past work. We get a lot of good exposure from our previous jobs. General contractors like to see companies that have a good reputation. We have remained financially stable, and now that the market is picking back up, general contractors don’t need to be as picky in regards to price. We always get complimented on our bid proposals and we enter every contract as a team and a partner. Our crew strives to be proactive and perform well.”
Overall, growth has been positive for the business, though Justin explains that expansion presents a unique set of challenges. “We have more sales and more backlog than we ever have before,” he elaborates. “With so much going on, safety becomes even more of a concern. We have implemented a full-time safety director to train our growing staff and maintain a culture of safety. We have a completely drug-free workplace and have recently changed our insurance and bonding partners to keep up with heightened activity.”
The company’s strong reputation and well-managed growth allowed LDI to roll into 2014 with one of the business’ biggest backlogs ever. This success allows the team to maintain steady growth while also contributing to the growth of the industry and the community.
Furthermore, LDI was featured in an article in the local News Press about the success of the company in December 2013, highlighted as a member of the Florida Walls & Ceilings Contractors Association. “We take our key employees up to those conventions,” Justin notes. “We stay connected with the association and our community. We work for a local charity here donating our time and materials, in most cases performing all our scopes of work.”
The Lee family is happy to be able to give back, making community involvement a key indicator of performance for the business. Other measures of success include customer satisfaction and employee turnover. While financially the numbers matter, Justin, his parents and LDI employees strive to leave a positive impression wherever the company ventures. Whether framing a large commercial project or donating materials and labor to a local nonprofit, Lee Drywall Inc. aims for quality and integrity.
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